Consider the T-word: Terrorist. Different from the N-word or C-word, but similar in that it shouldn't pass your lips lightly or without forethought. Because once it does, you'll always be the one who said it.
Enter Tommy Norment, Republican and majority leader of the state Senate. Last week Norment accused participants in a March 3 protest rally on Capitol Square of being members of "an identified anarchist, armed terrorist group."
"This is what raised the level of concern," Norment said, of the state's heavy security response.
The group he was referring to was the Barton Heights-based Wingnut Anarchist Collective. Mo Karn, a member, says that none of the current members attended the protest. Nor was the group involved with its planning, she says: "Some friends of ours and former members of our collective were involved. And some folks we really like were among those arrested. But that doesn't really explain why state Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment is calling us terrorists."
Norment made the allegation from the Senate floor while defending the police response at the women's rights rally, which included deploying officers in body armor and armed with tear gas. Police arrested 30 protesters for trespassing after they refused to vacate the Capitol steps.
Jeff Ryer, a spokesman for Norment, says the senator stands by his statements. Asked about his basis for the allegation, Ryer says "Webster's." The definition of anarchism, he says, includes active resistance and terrorism of the government. Leaders from both parties were made aware of who was and wasn't in attendance at the rally during a briefing with Capitol Police shortly before Norment made his comments.
A spokeswoman for Virginia State Police since has stated that the agency declines to label any group as "terrorist."